EDIT: I just now went back and looked over my last section. I figured I could find a chunk of information I needed to start working on the next section (which is rewriting it) easily. Then I noticed that it seems only a fourth of the chapter got uploaded. My mistake. I'll fix it now.

All right, I suppose I have some explaining to do, yeah? Well, It's not really that impressive, but a year ago, due to some events, I gave up my dream of being a writer. No, this is not a sympathy plea, just an explanation as to why it took so long. During that period, I avoided most of my own fiction in any way shape or form. However, guilt works, and I really didn't want to leave all of you when we are this close to the finish. So, here's another chapter.

Kairi21- Hopefully you find this chapter in a more timely fashion than the last, and I'm glad you're enjoying it.

TsubasaCaligrapher- I hope this was a quick enough update, but in the end, I know it wasn't. Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying this story, and hopefully I can keep getting them out.

Marowe- Thanks for the reminder. The guilt got me back to working on this, even if it was a slow process. And no I haven't quit this story. One day, it will all be up on the web.

Deth Star Apacolypse- No, I've not abandoned it yet, and I hope you haven't either. Because, if you have, I'm going to feel really dumb about how long I took.

R1y0- You have no idea how hard I am on my writing, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'll be the first to admit, that my grammar and proofing skills are a little lacking. But… It's the best I can do. Does Maya factor into the equation…? Yes, but I can't remember if I ever had Rue pick up on it. It's been a long time since I looked over her sections and the epilogue.

3laqueFyre- Whoa. Changing your name on me are you? Man, I've been out of the loop for a long time. And I hope you enjoy this chapter the most of all, especially with the wait you all have had to endure.

Rougesweet16- nine months ago, you praised my work. I need to staple that to my brain. Do not wait nine months between updates. I'm sorry, and I hope you enjoy this chapter.

Alexandra Maxwell- I would love to see that image too. Actually, there a lot of upcoming scenes I would love to see drawn. That would be so cool.

RiaKitsuneYoukai- perhaps, next time will be another fast update. I hope. I'll keep trying to catch those mistakes, but I'm kinda dumb at times, so I tend to miss little grammar errors.

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I lost track of time as I flew upwards, pausing only long enough to check the surrounding walkways for anything suspicious, or more suspicious than a floating walkway is at least, but other than the random monster that would stare or snarl at me, there was nothing overly special about anything. So, I just kept flying. Higher and higher I climbed, until I couldn't even see the faintest trace of where I took flight. I could feel small beads of sweat begin to form on my forehead. I reached up and wiped them away with my sleeve as my breathing grew heavier. I was quickly getting tired as the weaker muscles of my back and shoulder strained to keep me airborne. How huge was this place?

Then, I spotted something. A thin sliver of tan cut into the darkness in the shape of a horseshoe. I smiled as I began flapping with renewed vigor. I rapidly climbed towards that shape, which grew in width, and rounded from a horseshoe into a crescent moon. It wasn't like the other platforms. There was the something beyond it, as if something had slashed through a portion of black canvas. But there was no doubt; I was nearing the top.

Finally, I fluttered through the opening. My breath came in heavy gasps, as my wings fluttered erratically, failing from time to time and dropping me a few feet. I couldn't hover in one place, nor could I climb any higher. I flapped hard as I began to float down slowly, but I couldn't maintain the strain any longer and wings gave out. My feet hit the ground hard and I collapsed. I lay there for a moment savoring the hard stone beneath me and the cool stone, which soothed my burning muscles. It was only a moment, but it made my slip from consciousness almost pleasant.

I yawned as I sat up and stretched. I blinked lazily as I looked around the room. The walls were the exact same as the entrance, runic and cold. I found my mind drifting. How long had I been out? Was Prima ok? I felt bad about leaving him, but I had no choice. Time was something I couldn't spare.

My eyes lazily traced the wisps of gold that ran through the walls as I thought. I shook my head as I forced myself to stand. If I didn't have time to take Prima home, than I didn't have time to rest either. My body still felt a little tired, but no worse than when I usually woke up, which meant I'd been asleep for longer than I should. My wings and shoulders were stiff from over use and awkward sleep. I rotated my shoulders a few times and flapped my wings, groaning. They were a bit too stiff. In battle, they'd be more of a hindrance than a help.

I took a deep breath and willed the wings away. I could feel the wings roll up, then force their way back through my flesh. I clamped my eyes shut against the pain, but I didn't cry out. After all, it wasn't the worst pain I'd ever felt.

I reached up and rubbed my shoulder as I studied the room and the thin hall, which ended abruptly a few meters down. I shrugged as I jogged down the rough stone pathway. The stone here looked older than the other, and looked as if it would crumble easily. At the end of the hall was a carved circle in the floor, cut into four equal pieces. Each piece carved with a different runic symbol.

I bent down next to the circle and reached out with my free hand, touching the circle. A flicker of bluish light followed my fingers and I could feel a strong jerk of force, as if something hand grabbed m finger and were threatening to pull me into the circle. I yanked my hand away and stood up, baking away slightly as I rubbed my hand. I closed my eyes as I wondered if I should go through. The answer, I knew, had been there before I asked the question.

I opened my eyes and stepped onto the circle. The light flared, and I felt my feet being jerked out from under me. I felt like I was spinning. My eyes could see nothing but blue. Then it faded, and I found myself in a metallic room, which was shaped like a square, save for the rounded corners. I shook my head as I took a shuddering step forward. The only thing interesting about the room were the four blue green orbs, which rested atop little golden pillars.

I took another slow step forward.

"Stop," a calm voice said.

I froze. And began to glance about the room. An aura of purple began to resonate in the center of the room, and from the aura, a human body slowly began to materialize.

"Psycho Master," I whispered to myself. Then my voice grew louder "Where's Ruecian?"

"Ahead He's already at the entrance of Valen's sanctuary," Psycho Master answered, placing one hand on his hips. "I'm afraid you will be unable to follow him. He travels along the Cursed Crossways."

"Cursed Crossways?" I asked, taking a step forward. Psycho Master moved back and to the side, blocking my way to whatever was behind him.

"They were built by Valen," he answered. I stood up on my tiptoes and craned my neck just enough to see past him. He was guarding a warp point. "The Crossways are a marvelous invention of Aeon. They inflict the greatest fears of the past on a person, driving them to madness… even death. Only my master has the strength to survive the test."

"I don't care," I told him, swinging my hand out. "I'm still going. I've come this far. I'm not going to stop now."

He let out a soft sigh.

"Then I must warn you," Psycho Master began, taking a step forward. "You are too weak to survive in there. It behooves you to turn around right now. My master would not be pleased to hear of your death."

"Get out of my way."

"I will not," He replied, his calm voice growing a little fiercer. "My master instructed me to keep you from the Crossways. And I shall not fail him."

He lifted his free hand slowly. A faint purple glow formed around his fingertips, before spreading to envelope his whole hand. Then he clamped his hand shut, and the light shattered. A whooshing noise reached my ears followed by cracking sound, like that of a whip. My eyes widened as I looked around the room. The energy had leapt from his hand to the orbs, creating a sort of barrier around us.

"As long as I am alive," He began, his head turning to look at the barrier. "You will not be able to advance forward."

"Why are you doing this?" I asked, turning back to face him.

"I owe everything to my master," he explained.

"So, it's your duty?" I asked, clenching my fists.

"Yes," Psycho Master replied, nodding. "I can do nothing but repay him for the things he has done for me. His wishes have become my wishes, and I shall serve him to the end. It's my duty."

I shook my head, and lifted my blade into a ready position.

"So that is why we must fight?" I asked, not expecting an answer, however, Psycho Master nodded his head ever so slightly.

"You are his brother," he said softly, causing me to grimace. "Therefore, I shall exert myself to the utmost. I shall hold nothing back." I watched as his pale, lifeless purple eyes opened, gazing eerily at me. "I must warn you, you should prepare yourself for death."

And with that, he vanished. My eyes widened, and I began to jog in a circle around the room, listening for anything unusual and simply trying to spot him. My boots echoed hard on the floor as I continued to move, the sound beginning to distort against the reverberating echo in the room.

Then he appeared, and I lunged forward, bringing my blade down hard at his shoulder. His hand moved, glowing faintly with its eerie light, but he was too slow. I felt my blade connect and I smirked weakly.

Suddenly, I felt my feet being jerked off the ground. I hovered for a moment as I looked down at Psycho Master; his hand pulsing with purple energy. The energy flared and I felt like bolts of lighting were ripping through me. I screamed as the pain devoured my insides. I tried to fight, to escape, but I was trapped in place, like an invisible force was pressing down hard on me from all directions. Suddenly, I felt the force on my back melt away and I shot backwards, crumpling to a heap on the ground.

I lifted myself slowly, gasping in heavy, ragged breathes. I felt confused and disoriented as my vision swam and spun. My legs quivered, and I was forced to use the Arc Edge as a balance. Psycho Master hadn't vanished. He simply stood where he had been, looking at me with his emotionless eyes and unhappy countenance. I forced myself to stand on my own and took a deep breath.

Slowly, Psycho Master raised his hand and gestured for me to charge. I didn't. Somehow he had blocked my attack, which I felt, certainly, had been a direct hit. Perhaps it had something to do with the odd glow on his hands and that attack he launched.

"Well," he said, slowly raising his hand. "If you are not going to attack then I will."

Slowly, he raised his arms, and for every few inches he lifted them his body followed, like he was pulling on some reverse pulley. Slowly, his body began to glide forward, as if it was being pushed from behind over a surface as slick as ice. I stumbled to the side quickly, and he gave chase.

I ran with everything I had, however, I just wasn't fast enough. It hadn't taken long for him to catch me, freezing my body in mid stride. I felt myself being lifted off the ground, and I braced for the coming pain. I wasn't disappointed. I didn't scream this time, at least, not as loudly. I clenched my teeth as the pain ripped through me, and I cried out in a sort of muffled groan, before I was once again thrown to the ground.

I coughed and panted as I rolled myself onto my hands and knees. I stood up shakily and looked at him. My eyes were bleary. I staggered backwards.

I screamed as the lighting ripped through me, but nothing held me in place and in an instant, I was shivering on the floor, thrown from the beam pf energy that formed a barrier around us. I reached up and rubbed my face. Blood. My hands and body were scuffed badly against the floor and who knew what internal wounds I was receiving. I lifted my head weakly and looked backwards. There was my Arc Edge, lying discarded by the barrier that kept me trapped in here; the barrier that inflicted the same kind of damage as whatever attacks Psycho Master was using.

I stood up. My body ached and trembled, asking me in its most desperate voice to give up; to wait for Mint; to let her handle it. But I couldn't do that. I had to stop Ruecian. I had to avenge Claire. And I had to do it myself. My eyes traveled back and forth between my enemy and the barrier. Suddenly it hit me. His hand had glowed before the barrier formed. His hand had glowed before I struck. Both attacks resulted in the same outcome. That meant, he was forming a barrier around himself, but how was I supposed to get through it?

I stood there and looked at him, the barrier had stopped my attack, but why had the lighting ripped through me. Had it come through the Arc Edge? I swallowed nervously and lifted my blade. There was only one way to find out. I shifted forward and swung my blade.

Clang!

The sound of metal striking metal reverberated through the room. I cracked open one eye, and then the other. I smiled. The Arc Edge had passed through the barrier. It hadn't been the through the blade. I pulled the Arc Edge back.

I turned back to look at him, and lifted my hand. I waved. He just stared.

"Are you going to attack me or do I have to come get you again?" he asked.

I smirked, feeling oddly confident, and closed my hand into a fist, then extended one finger. I didn't turn my head from him; I only twisted my wrist so that the finger was pointed towards the orb behind me.

"What is that thing?" I mouthed silently. He said nothing.

"What's that thing?" I asked, turning to look at the orb.

"It's a psychic amplifier," he replied, placing a hand on his hip. "However, knowing what enables me to create the barrier won't help you."

I nodded, smiling to myself. I had an idea. But if it failed then I was done for. However, I had one thing going for me. Psycho Master's cold, lifeless eyes really fit their description. He was blind.

"I know," I replied truthfully. "You're very strong. I probably only have the strength to launch one more attack."

"Then shall we get this over with?" He asked. "I grow weary without a challenge."

"All right," I said, and charged forward.

I took several powerful steps forward, before hurling the Arc Edge. The blade struck the shield and was instantly engulfed in a purple aura. Psycho Master's hand glowed fiercely.

I leapt to the side, barely touching the ground, before lunging forward. I swung.

My fist connected hard. The sound of flesh sticking flesh filled the room. Psycho Master stumbled, and tried to bring up his guard, but I was too quick. I swung again, catching him hard under the chin. He stumbled backwards, stumbling into the beams. Screams filled the room as the lightning ripped through him. The shield around him materialized, locking him into place, against his own energies.

Then the shield flared brightly and all that could be seen was the blackened form of his body. Both his protection and the barrier around the room faded away after the flash. I watched silently as Psycho Master collapsed to the floor; smoke poured from his eyes and mouth. His empty eye sockets gazed into the nothingness. I shook my head as I walked over to where the Arc Edge had been discarded.

"I'm sorry," I said softly, turning to look at the man who lay motionless on the floor. I could see his chest rise and fall, but it was uneven, and I knew he would die soon without medical or magical attention, but I had none to give.

I moved swiftly through the room towards the warp that would lead me to the Cursed Crossways. I stood at the entrance for a few moments, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm my nerves. I glanced back at Psycho Master one more time before placing my foot down on the circular stone.

Pressure flared around me, and I felt like a thousand stones had been placed on top me and more were slowly pilling up. My head began to throb and I was having trouble breathing. I tried to move, but I couldn't. As I fought to breath, something began to prickle in the back of my mind, as if something metallic were scraping against the back of my skull. Then I felt it pierce and hook, latching into place. I gritted my teeth and shut my eyes even tighter than they already were. Then it began to tug.

I screamed.

I stood up slowly, a soft groan escaping my lips. I could feel the biting cold digging away at my exposed flesh. I looked up. The starry night sky spread far over the snow-covered trees, and the ground was covered in a thin layer of snow, which came up just over the toes of my boots. I gripped the handle of the Arc Edge, alternating fingers to try to work out the colds affects on my hands. I wished I still had my shirt.

A whooshing sound erupted behind me, and the snow was bathed in a bright, orange light. I could feel the flesh of my bare back began to warm as the orange light tinged with red and yellow and danced against the snow. I turned around and watched as the flames rose, higher and higher, over taking the cottage in an instant. Bits of wood fell from the top of the roof. The glass windows exploded from the pressure that was rapidly building up inside the cottage, showering me in shards of glass. Luckily, I was able to react quickly enough and block them from reaching my eyes. I lowered my arm slowly, feeling the thin trickle of blood begin to flow down my arms and chest where the glass had hit.

Through the windows, deep in the fiery haze, I could just barely make out a figure wandering around in the cottage.

"Hold on!" I shouted as I began to rush around to the other side of the building.

The fire hadn't spread too far on this side, and I was still able to get up onto the porch. I reached out and grabbed the handle to the door, screaming as the heat seared my hand, causing me to jerk back and clench my hand, groaning in annoyance. I looked helplessly at the door for a moment, before I decided to take a Mint style approach to the problem.

I took a quick step forward, and slammed the heel of my boot into the door right next to the handle. The door shot open, leaving a trail of splinters behind it as it tore the bolt off the wall.

I rushed forward. The fire had grown higher, and I could see the person hunched over in the corner. I moved quickly through the house, around the table and over a bookcase that had been knocked over as the fires raged around me, moving quickly to envelope my escape route. I had almost reached the person when the ceiling caved in. A small fiery block struck me in the shoulder and I stumbled, crying out. I shook the burning embers off my back as I stood up, feeling the skin of my back resist the movement.

"Hey!" I shouted. I gripped the handle of the Arc Edge and tried to hold it over the flame. "Hey! If you grab the end, I think I can still get you out of here!"

"I deserve this," The person said, his voice soft and weak, but defiantly masculine.

I couldn't see him clearly through the haze of the smoke, but I could see that he was hunched up in the corner, holding something tightly in his hands.

"Come on!" I yelled, beginning to sound annoyed. "Grab on!"

We didn't have time for this. I had to get him out of here.

"It's my fault all of this happened," he said.

"I don't care! We can discuss this later!" I shouted, pulling back my blade for a moment, wincing from placing my hand too near the fire. This place was getting much too hot.

"Fate," the man began, ignoring me; slowly he stood up and walked forward.

"This…," he said, pointing up to the gem in the top of his forehead. His white hair was stained gray from the ashes. "…is my fate."

My eyes widened in horror. It was me. I took a quick step back, as he tossed what was in his hands at me.

"Take it and embrace your fate," he said slowly, as the item fell into my hands. It was a pair of the cross bars used to direct a marionette. "I choose this path. This is the only way… to defy fate."

With that said, he smiled weakly. I froze. And just like that he was gone, the ceiling collapsing down on top of him. I jumped back, just narrowly dodging a piece of burning wood.

"I'm not just a puppet!" I shouted, and tossed the crossbars into the fire. "I'm not."

"It's your fault I'm dead," A voice said behind me.

I spun quickly to see Claire pinned to the burning wall, hanging as if nailed just above the fireplace. The flames slowly caught her dress and began to rise up quickly.

"Claire!" I shouted, rushing forward. "I'll save you."

"Allow me," Ruecian's voice rang out.

Suddenly, Claire smiled as a hand shot through her stomach. Blood tickled from her mouth. She looked at me for only a moment, before she was ripped through the wall. I rushed forward, diving through the newly created opening.

As I landed, I saw Ruecian lift Claire up and slam her into the snow. He smirked as he lifted his foot and slammed it down into her face. Once, twice, three times. Blood splattered across the snow.

"Stop it!" I shouted, rising to my feet.

"Why?" Ruecian asked, turning to look at me as he continued to crush Claire's head under the sole of his boot. "I'm doing this to get you."

"Stop it!" I shouted again. Fury filled me. "Leave her alone!"

He lifted his foot one more time and slammed it down, before removing it. He bent down slowly and lifted her up by the throat. She put up no fight. Her lifeless body just dangled in his hands. I couldn't move. Her dead eyes still stared at me through the mangled mass of flesh that had been her face.

"Like what you see?" He asked. He chuckled and stepped forward, chunking her at me.

I brought up my arms, in an attempt to shield myself from the blow, but it never came. When I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded by burning buildings. An evil chuckle rang out behind me. I spun, the town of Carona whirling around me. Ruecian hovered in the air, holding Mint upside down by her foot.

"Rue will come!" Mint shouted, a determined look on her face, her ponytails dangling towards the earth.

Ruecian reared back and slammed his fist into her face. Her neck twisted far and the sound of bone breaking reached my ears. Slowly, Mint turned back to look at him, blood spilling from the many wounds to her face.

"Where's the boy now?" Ruecain asked, chuckling.

Mint spat, her bloody saliva and a tooth landing gracelessly on his shoe. The tooth bounced once before plummeting back towards the earth. Ruecian pulled back and struck her again.

"I said to stop!" I shouted as I rushed forward, hurling the Arc Edge like a javelin.

The blade sailed through Ruecian and he faded into nothingness. Mint fell, and I dove, catching her in my arms. She looked up at me with weak eyes. I reached up with my thumb and rubbed some of the blood from her face. She smiled.

"I knew you'd come," Mint said softly.

"I'm sorry it took so long," I told her honestly.

"Just kick his ass for me, ok?" She asked, and I nodded, and with that she closed her eyes.

My eyes followed hers, and my head hung low. Why? Why did this happen? What was happening? None of this made any sense. Ruecian was in Valen's fortress. He was ahead of me. And at that moment, I knew it was fake, that it could not be happening, but that didn't stop the anger from coming.

"Good," A voice echoed from deep within the darkness.

I slowly opened my eyes and could see an opening, a pure slit of light, bathing a little bit of the surrounding walls in its glow. I stood up slowly and began to walk towards the door. I stepped out into the light and found myself on a metallic balcony. The sets of stairs ran from the sides and then curved back in, connecting with another walkway, which stretched across the chasm, connecting on the other side with a large set of doors, covered in slowly spinning and grinding cogs. Standing on the walkway, one hand on the railing beside him and the other still touching the door was Ruecian, his red wings laying flat against his back.

'The seal is finally broken," he said softly to no one in particular. "It is time to fulfill my duty, walk beyond this gate, and complete the destiny that has been handed to me. Valen's resurrection begins now."

"Ruecian, Stop!" I shouted, as I hopped over the railing and dropped onto the catwalk below, a loud bang reverberating from the bridge.

"So… you managed to defeat Psycho Master," Ruecian said, slowly turning to face me. "You never cease to amaze me brother."

"I'm your brother in flesh only," I replied coldly, my fingers gripping and relaxing on the Arc Edge as I narrowed my eyes at him.

"It's time that you accepted your fate," he replied, smirking. "We were created with the sole purpose of reviving Valen. We were created with that power. It has been our fate since birth and we can never escape it. That is why you were able to survive the passage through the nightmares."

"Fate has reunited us again," he continued. "Valen and the Dewprism rest beyond this gate. And it is now time for us to march forward… together… and revive our master, like brothers should. Bound by fate, scattered by cruelty, we share one destiny."

"I don't want that destiny," I replied calmly.

"What?" Ruecian asked, shocked.

"I don't care if I'm a doll created by Valen," I told him taking a step towards him. "I've comethis far by following my own heart, my own feelings and decisions. I've fought for myself, for Claire… and for Mint. But not once have I fought for my so-called master. I'm going to get the Dewprism, but not for Valen. I'll get it with Mint, and then I'm going to save Claire. That is my destiny."

Ruecian looked at me for a moment.

"Why not simply remove the strife that would come from fighting me over this, and simply join me?" Ruecian asked, placing a hand on his chest as his other was extended towards me in invitation. "After all, if we work together, Claire can come back just as fast. And then all can be forgiven."

"You don't get it, do you?" I asked, looking down towards me boots, my fist clenched tightly around the handle of the Arc Edge.

"You killed her!" I raged, jabbing the blade at him.

I was angry and breathing heavily.

"It's too late for forgiveness! Do you understand? I don't want your help!"

"If you don't join me, I'll be forced to destroy you," Ruecain warned, a pained look spreading across his features.

"I don't care," I replied, lifting the Arc Edge. "I'm not backing down."

"So be it," Ruecian said, clenching his fist. "Though I'll never understand your fascination with the humans."

He slung his hand out to the side, and I saw his arm pulse. Slowly his arm began to bulge and grow, twisting itself into the Arm of Death. As the arm grew, so did Ruecian's wings. Slowly they began to flap and he rose gracefully into the air. He stared down his nose at me, and I shifted my feet, preparing myself for what ever he might throw at me.

"I waited, Brother," he said. "For centuries I waited. Not for my master, but for you. Can you understand that? The loneliness? The Emptiness? And you throw it back to me because two female pigs took pity on you? We are above them! We are the master race! They are ours to do with as we please!"

"They are not worthless! They are not animals!" I shouted, stepping forward. "! They are human!!"

"There's a difference?" He asked as he charged forward, swooping down at me and lashing out with his huge hand.

His sharp fingers stabbed into the spot I had just been, but I rolled to the side. In an instant, he shifted his weight and brought the arm after me. I could barely block in time. I was thrown back, slamming hard into the railing. I stumbled forward a bit, my body aching from the blow. Ruecian watched me, studying me; judging me. His questioning eyes infuriated me. I lunged forward, thrusting out with the Arc Edge. He shifted to the side and my blow just barely missed his chest. I shifted my feet and turned, bringing the Arc Edge around hard. But the sound of metal striking metal was all that greeted my ears.

I looked up. Ruecian had stepped back, and caught my blade in the armor-plated palm of his hand. He smirked, gripping down hard on the Arc Edge. I didn't have time to react. He shifted his weight and I was pulled from my feet again, and slammed down hard onto the ground on the other side of him. The shock of the blow caused me to release the Arc Edge, which spun once in the air, before landing on my shoulder, digging in. I screamed as my own weapon bit into my flesh. I pawed at the blade, trying to gather the strength to pull it from my shoulder when I felt Ruecian's boot step down hard on the opposite shoulder, causing me to cry out again, from both the force of his boot and the force of him pulling the Arc Edge from my shoulder.

I rolled over onto my knees and curled into a ball as I tried to get up. The pain was intense, but I just had to focus. Slowly, I regained my footing. The Arc Edge lay next to me, and I bent down to get it. I was breathing hard as I turned around. But Ruecian wasn't there. I turned again. Nothing. There was nothing on either side of me. I could feel my skin begin to prickle. Where was he? His wings. I looked up…

But nothing was there.

Suddenly, I felt something grab my leg and pull. I cried out in surprise as I was pulled through the metal railing, my face slamming down hard on the ledge. The wind rushed past me as I plummeted, spinning end over end. My head ached and my eyes were blurred from the blow. I could barely think. Fear was beginning to grip me as I fell. This was it. Sorry, Mint. Mint? An image flashed in my mind.

"Wings!" I shouted, as I summoned my wings.

The wings didn't come out slowly, but shot out, ripping their way through the flesh of my upper back. I could feel the loss of blood as a wave of wooziness rushed over my head, but soon the wounds closed. I flapped hard, fighting to straighten myself. My fall was slowing, as was my spinning, but it wasn't enough.

Through the haze of my blurring vision, I could see myself coming close to one of the many walls of the fortress. My head hurt. I felt sick. But I had to try. I gripped the handle of the Arc Edge and thrust out. It bit and I felt my arms being jerked from their sockets. My body slammed hard into the wall. I could feel blood trickling from my nose and mouth, but I had stopped.

I shook my head, feeling dazed. I flapped my wings, and planted my feet on the wall, and with a mighty heave, I ripped the Arc Edge from its entrapment. I hovered there for a moment, looking up at the catwalk, which was now high above me. Ruecian was nowhere to be seen.

I smirked weakly as I rose up slowly, my wings beating faintly against the wind. Below me was a flicker of light. I looked down and could see movement on one of the many walkways that I had bypassed. I smiled. Mint was on her way.

I flapped a little harder, flying quickly towards my destination. I had to accomplish this before Mint got her. Ruecian was mine to defeat. I had to avenge Claire.

"Ruecian!" I shouted, as I rose above the walkway.

He turned to look at me slowly. His wings were curled at his side, and the Arm of Death rested on the ground. He smiled at me.

"So, you did manage to find your wings," Ruecian said slowly. His wings began to flap with vigor. "Then I suppose we must take this fight to the air."

I flapped my wings hard, once, then twice, then I dove, slashing out hard. Ruecian caught my blade with his weapon and pushed, sending us both flying away from each other. Both of our wings flapped hard. We charged. Again and again, we charged, one of us striking the other blocking and forcing the attacker away like two quarreling birds of prey.

I charge again, aiming higher this time. I slashed out, his hand shot up to block. My weapon hit hard, and I tumbled over him. I spun in mid air, slashing at his back, but he spun too, catching my blade in his hand. We stared at each other for only a moment, before floating down onto the ground below us.

"You are every bit as strong as I'd hoped for brother," Ruecian said with a smile. He wasn't breathing heavy.

"You… too," I said, panting and gasping for air. I wasn't used to my wings, and controlling them was taking a lot out of me.

Slowly, Ruecian's wings retracted into his body. He lifted the Arm of Death and flexed his fingers before smiling at me.

"Thank you," he said. "However, this quarrel is getting us nowhere. I suggest that we end this now. Do you agree?"

I nodded, pulling the wings back into my body. My left eye began to twitch as the bones of my back, snapped and reformed.

Ruecian's smile faded away and he looked at me with sad eyes. One of us was going to die here. I knew that fact, and I could tell that he knew it too. The feeling of death that hung in the air was so palpable that it felt like a brick wall that had been built to cover every inch of my flesh.

I shifted my body to the side, holding the Arc Edge up, as Ruecian did the same with his Arm of Death.

"I want you to know… that I do respect you, Rue, even if you are being foolish."

"I know you can't understand what I'm doing, but that doesn't mean I'll stop. You won't defeat me. I'm going to rescue Claire."

I shook my head, and he frowned more pronouncedly. This didn't feel right.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his foot begin to move, and I followed him. We rushed towards each other. I leapt. He swung. Weapon bit flesh and we both landed on our feet. I coughed, and blood flew from my mouth.

"I'm sorry," He said as I feel to my knees.

I turned my head slowly to look at him, blood trickling down my mouth as the Arc Edge fell from my grasp. His eyes were filled with such sadness, that even I couldn't comprehend it.

"Br... ther.." I groaned as I fell forward.

"Rue!"